Education Beyond School

Maya Bracy stands in front of Peabody Hall, home of the UNC School of EducationGrowing up in a close-knit community in Philadelphia, surrounded by generations of her family, Maya Bracy developed a keen interest in supporting and improving the lives of children and families.

Originally on a pre-med track during her undergraduate education, Bracy soon realized medicine was not the only way to serve children and families. After enrolling in an introductory psychology course, Bracy knew that she wanted to lean into her love of working with people on a behavioral and mental health level.

“I learned that what I love about working with people is what makes up their choices and behaviors and what their motivations are for doing things,” said Bracy, now a doctoral student in the UNC School of Education’s Applied Developmental Science and Special Education (ADSSE) concentration.

For her interest in being an agent for change within human development practices, Bracy received a Robert Wood Johnson Grant and is a participant in the 2022 Health Policy Research Scholars Program cohort — a national leadership program sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for doctoral students geared toward advancing a culture of health policy.

In addition to her Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognition, Bracy was named a 2021 fellow within UNC-Chapel Hill’s Weiss Urban Livability Program, a one-year fellowship that provides funding, learning opportunities and the opportunity to design a community project that impacts urban livability in Chapel Hill.

In this program, Bracy collaborated with a group of interdisciplinary graduate students throughout the University to create working models surrounding what urban livability looks like, how communities thrive and the developmental factors impacted over time.

Within her research, Bracy reflects on her childhood and the structure of care that she received in her upbringing. Through this, Bracy’s research delves into understanding more about the informal networks of care and community care options and the individuals in children’s lives outside of their biological parents who contribute to their development.

“My program within the School of Education is a lot more developmentally based,” Bracy said. “What’s really cool is I get that community or applied piece within learning more about education and how schools are a big connector of individuals, families and communities.”

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